Don’t Let That Chicken Make You Sick

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Chicken purchased at the grocery store often contains harmful bacteria that can make you sick. Here's how to protect yourself.

If you love chicken — and it is America’s favorite meat — this is probably news you don’t want to see.

Consumer Reports purchased 316 raw chicken breasts from grocery stores in 26 states and tested them for six strains of bacteria. They discovered that 97 percent of the samples contained some form of bacteria that can lead to illness.

Here are some other startling statistics from CR’s study:

  • 79.8 percent contained enterococcus, which indicates fecal contamination.
  • 65.2 percent contained E. coli, which also indicates fecal contamination.
  • 43 percent contained campylobacter, a contaminant that causes diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever.
  • 13.6 percent contained klebsiella pneumoniae, which can lead to a respiratory illness.
  • 10.8 percent contained salmonella.
  • 9.2 percent contained staphylococcus aureus, a contaminant that can cause infection when introduced to broken skin.
  • 49.7 percent of the samples displayed traces of a multidrug-resistant bacterium.

The study said there was “no significant difference in the average number of types of bacteria between conventional samples and those labeled no antibiotics or organic.”

On the same day that report came out this week, the Pew Charitable Trusts issued its own report about two salmonella outbreaks linked to Foster Farms chicken. Says the Los Angeles Times:

At the core of both findings are calls to strengthen government oversight in the $70 billion poultry industry. Doing so would help reduce incidents of food-borne illness, which sickens 48 million people and kills 3,000 in the U.S every year.

“When more than 500 people get sick from two outbreaks associated with chicken that meets federal safety standards, it is clear that those standards are not effectively protecting public health,” Sandra Eskin, director of Pew’s food safety project, said in a statement.

The government is already taking some steps. Says the LA Times, “Coincidentally, the two studies arrive the same month the federal government outlined major new policies to tackle salmonella in poultry and address the over-use of antibiotics in raising meat.” Check out the story for more details.

How can you protect yourself from bacteria on raw chicken? Consumer Reports suggests that you:

  • Save the chicken for last when you’re shopping at the grocery store, and place it in a plastic bag.
  • Use a cutting board to prevent cross contamination and clean thoroughly afterward.
  • Thoroughly wash the chicken before cooking it.
  • Always wash your hands after handling raw poultry.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of cooked chicken reaches 165 degrees F.

Were you aware of the dangers posed by chicken? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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